I've been a bad widdle blogger....

It's been over a month since my last confes...er...blog entry.

Umm...lessee...in that time I rode my last cyclocross race of the 2011 Kisscross season.  It was a good time, but not quite as fun as some of the earlier races.  It was cold and wet and dreary.  I also had my first fall during a CX race.  Technically I fell twice, but only once during the actual race.  I also fell during the warm-up...underestimated the oomph I needed to get up a steep little bump.  The actual race fall was a matter of my front wheel not wanting to turn in deep, gloopy mud.   So I pretty much ran over one of the orange plastic stakes that hold the yellow course marking tape.  I crushed the stake...with my mighty left leg.  Uh...except the stake was pretty much intact and I had a bruise on both my thigh and calf from the stake.  It was still a good time, though.  I miraculously made it through a stretch of mud on the first lap (but not the 2nd and 3rd laps).  Quite a few people didn't make it through on any attempt.  On the first lap the biggest issue was crowding.  I'm not sure how I managed to keep rolling and not have to dismount to dodge other riders.  Luck.

Derek competed in his first ever "B" race and made it through about halfway before he majorly blew a tire (not just the innertube, the entire tire).  In a mad dash to find a substitute bike he grabbed mine...keep in mind that there is nearly a full foot height difference between my spouse and I.  See the giant man on the tiny clown bike...

Post race we enjoyed soup and beer and the company of friends at a wonderful Irish-themed tavern right next door to our favorite bike shop (across the street from that is a microbrewery--can you see part of the reason that we love that shop so much?!).

Work continues towards getting the ODRAM site ready to go live.  We hope to have it ready to go before the new year.  Building this site keeps reminding me how fun that day was and how much I am looking forward to riding across the state, again.  This time sans-monsoon, I hope.

Yesterday I mailed our annual holiday card.  Every year I say I'm going to cut back, yet I somehow have managed to mail 79 of those things.  I think that's a new record.  Sheesh.  Perhaps in the future I should simply do a blog entry with the photo for all of our electronically inclined friends and family.  That would probably cut the # of cards I mail down to to maybe 20 (like my luddite parents).

We're down to just 4 more days until Christmas Eve. I'm really looking forward to our relatively new tradition of Chinese take-out on the night before Christmas, a mostly quiet day on the actual holiday, followed by a road trip to WI to spend time with my family for a few days after Christmas.

I especially can't wait for DS to "unwrap" his primary gift: a shiny new Redline Conquest 24.  It's the baby version of my cyclocross bike.  And when I say shiny, I'm not kidding...it has chrome bar tape and I found a chrome-painted version of the same bottle cage model that I use on all of my bikes!  We're still not sure how we will unveil it.  Right now we're thinking of some sort of treasure hunt with clues on various items that he unwraps.  We are actually considering stashing it in the shower, of all places.  He's a 10 year old boy...he'd never look THERE!


Sneak Peek!

I've been a busy little bee the past couple of days.  The ODRAM (One Day Ride Across MI) planning committee met earlier in the week to start discussing the 2012 ride.  My hubby is the official "cartographer" and had also been the "webmaster" for the previous year.  The "site" consisted of a simple information page with an email contact for more info.  Most riders gleaned info. from a Facebook event page, as well.

This year the committee decided to have a more official and complete site developed and asked me to help--cool beans!

So I kinda dove-in headfirst.  I had considered building the site from scratch, which would be very labor-intensive and probably look incredibly clumsy, since my HTML coding skills are amateur, at best.  I also don't have the best handle on CSS coding.  I'm better at tweaking existing code.

Rough draft of the new-and-improved ODRAM site's FAQs page
The easiest solution I came up with was to take a Blogger template site and customize it to work more as a website than a blog.  Aside from the top navbar it doesn't really function like a typical Blogger site.

Instead of a single page with numerous entries, there are multiple pages...home, route maps, FAQs, organizers' bios, relevant links, contact.  We're also hoping to get some positive testimonials to post on the site.  Once the site is closer to being ready for wide-release we'll point the existing odram.com URL to the Blogger page.

Unlike most blog entries there won't be a spot for comments to be left on any of the pages, instead we will direct people to an official Facebook group page for question/answer.  This will help prevent clutter on the official site and to encourage more discussion and communication amongst participants and organizers.

Miss Matchy-Matchy Muddy Butt
This past weekend I competed in my 5th ever cyclocross race.  Fun times, again!  I placed 7/11 in the women's C race.  Initially the result was 6/10, so a woman's result must have gotten mixed into the men's ranking.  11 women in this race is GREAT!  I think last year they were lucky to have more than 2-3 women riding in any of the races.

Jack Kunnen snagged another nice photo of me...all matchy-matchy with my bike (I took some ribbing for that.  To be fair, I had the arm sleeves and tank under my jersey for years before the bike or jersey were even in existence), scooping in as much air as I could muster with my mouth agape.  When the season has closed I think DH and I are going to have to order a few digital copies of his work.  In all the running races I've done I think I have maybe 2 photos that were worth ordering.  Jack seems to shoot at least one good shot of me at every race.

There were some good spots of mud on the course, which got increasingly muddy with each lap.  The A and B racers got FILTHY!  It was a beautiful thing.

Next Sunday (3 days after Thanksgiving) is the last CX race of the season.  I'm already feeling sorta blue about it.  But there are a few Winter "snowcross" races that I hope to try.  I'm guessing that my mountain bike might be more useful for that.  As if I weren't already completely lacking in barrier-clearing skills.  I think my mtn. bike weighs at least 10#s more than my CX bike, too!  I'd better start pumping iron NOW!


Dirt Hurts!

10/23/11 - 6/7 C female...
I missed out on a cheesecake
-- that went to the DFL woman!
It's been over 3 weeks since my little 2-wheeled jaunt in the desert. I've managed some rides on my road bike, since then (including nearly 34, today), but most of my time astride a bike has been spent on my cyclocross bike.

Since returning from Death Valley and Las Vegas Derek and I have spent a couple of gorgeous Saturday afternoons bombing-around on our muddy backroads.  I have also "raced" in 2 cyclocross events (in addition to the 2 I participated in prior to the DV ride) and really enjoyed myself. I am by no means good at the sport. I mean, I'm probably worse at cyclocross than I am at running, at least relative to the entire field. In running I generally finish right smack dab in the middle of any field. And in shorter events, like 5ks, I might even finish in the top third, overall and in my age group. In cyclocross I am happy to not be last in the C race (ie the slowest of the A/B/C fields).

To be fair, running races attract a wider range of abilities.  Cycling races are limited to those who are serious enough about the sport to have invested in relatively pricey and specialized gear.  Running shoes enable pretty much anyone to toe-the-line.

But I've yet to fall (*knocks on wood*), which says something, as last week's race photos demonstrated that even faster, more skilled riders were struggling with a section of the course that I managed to make it down 3x without so much as unclipping a single foot.

10/30/11 - 6/9 C female
I'm doing better on hills and feeling more confident and skilled with my bike-handling abilities, as well.  Next year's goals are to continue to progress with these things, but also to improve my mounts and dismounts -- which right now pretty much consist of me coming to a dead stop, dismounting, doing my run-ups and/or barriers, setting my bike down, and starting again from a dead stop...all while people who are actually slower than me on the pedaling parts pass me.  I don't want to lose places over my mounts/dismounts in 2012.

As much as I've come to love these races, I find myself already dreading the end of the season...I was scared shitless for the first few races, but now I'm having such fun gutting it out for 30ish minutes a couple of Sundays each month in the Fall.  Our last race is Thanksgiving Day weekend.  I am thankful for cowbells, hecklers, and good beer at the finish.  There's a good chance that my hubby will be moving up to the B field, so I'll even have him to heckle me in future races.  I respond better to snark than I do to gracious support, heh.

I'm also looking forward to a couple of Winter 'cross races that are offered in the area.  Those should be a fun change of pace.  I think studded tires will be on my Christmas list (is that weird...ya'know, being a girl who wants utilitarian tires, instead of perfume or some designer wardrobe item, or something...?).

Looks kinda like a hedgehog, doesn't it?
In addition to my time on my CX bike I also joined my hubby and a few friends for an afternoon of loops at Luton park.  I will say that my first jaunt at Luton went relatively better than last week's ride.  I just felt..."off" and sort of foggy the entire time.  Towards the end of the day took a bit of a tumble as I attempted a tight turn heading down a hill.  I landed hard on my left hip/thigh (earning myself a 4"x3" bruise), with my feet pointing up the hill.  I recall rolling at least once, and have a smaller bruise on my right thigh to show for it.

The big bruise is still sorta hard 5 days out.  And my legs are littered with bruises from that ride and other random, minor pedal whacks and moments of me lacking grace (at least 75% of the time I can't actually determine the cause of any bruise...I'm just covered with them and some of the larger ones can be painful for days).  We attended Derek's cousin's wedding on Saturday and I was feeling a little self conscious about the abundance of multi-colored splotches on my lower legs.  I'm actually overdue for a physical and I think I'm going to ask about the possibility of a clotting disorder (on paper I have nearly all of the symptoms for von Willenbrand Disease, including anemia, and actually had a surgeon very concerned years ago, as I bled heavily in the OR.  I've always avoided aspirin, just to be safe, but it has me wondering if my diagnosed stage 2 endometriosis isn't just endometriosis, since the heavy and prolonged menstrual bleeding could have just as easily been from a clotting disorder).  I've always bruised easily, but it seems to have worsened in the past decade.  It's my ease of bruising and bleeding that has always made me apprehensive to try mountain biking.

Now that I've tried it and like it I don't want to have reason to avoid it, especially if there is some treatable condition at play.  I don't really mind falling.  What I DO mind is the painful after-effect of a big-ass hematoma on my big ass!


(Death Valley) California Dreaming: part 4 - Leaving Las Vegas

Part 3

Traci & Brad
After leaving the pool and cleaning ourselves up we took the Deuce bus to The Chapel of the Bells to witness the vow renewal of our teammate, Brad, and his wife, Traci. This was only my 3rd trip to Vegas and my 2nd attendance of a vow renewal. Good stuff. Anyone can get married, nowadays, so it's truly a privilege to see couples recommit.

Following the ceremony we made a quick stop to the Stratosphere casino for drinks and a round of machine gambling. I think the bride won about $8, which is more than I've ever gambled in Vegas and definitely more than I've ever won.

We then waited for what seemed like forever before we hopped onto another Deuce bus and walked a few blocks on-foot to a recommended Italian restaurant behind the Flamingo hotel, Battista's.  There we had very reasonably-priced all-inclusive dinners that featured soup or salad, bread, entree, unlimited carafes of red and white wine, and "cappuccino."  I had excellent lasagna.

Battista's bathroom art
Once we had (once again) gorged ourselves we wandered through the Bellagio to look at the Chihuly lobby art, then through the conservatory with their astoundingly gorgeous seasonal flower arrangements.  Then we took in the Bellagio fountain show and made our way back to the Strip, where the group split up.  Some were returning to Fremont street, while others were staying on the Strip a while longer.  Derek and I headed across the street to the Planet Hollywood shops to find a souvenir for Dane, not realizing that it was closing time, so after trudging though the mall we caught an express bus back to the Golden Nugget.

The hotel gift shop was still open, so we purchased a funny shark tank-themed "triathlon" shirt for Dane.  We also got him a set of Vegas dominos at the airport on our way out.  He was pretty thrilled by both souvenirs.

The next morning Derek ran down to the Starbucks at the base of the hotel elevator and grabbed coffees and pastries for breakfast while I showered.  We finished packing and met our teammate, Mike, down at the airport shuttle stop.

Yay for elbow room!
After a brief wait we were on our way to the airport, where we would meet up with 4 more teammates for our trip back to MI.  We knew in advance that our flight was delayed by about 25 minutes.  This left for a very short layover in Minneapolis, but we arrived back in MI on-time, without hours of delays and time trapped on planes, THANKFULLY!

The person who was to share our row on the first and longer flight never showed, so Derek and I were treated to 3 seats between the 2 of us, SCORE!

The aftermath of returning home has included many loads of laundry (and our various ride kits won't be home until tomorrow, when we pick up our bikes from the transport truck), trying to stay warm, running in the rain while feeling a little blue (and more than a little annoyed by the wet, cold, windy, wretched MI weather), snuggling cats and kid, and sleeping.  No longer am I feeling thirsty all the time or yelling "drinking" any time I take a swig from a bottle or glass (in Death Valley everyone helps keep each other hydrated by yelling out reminders to slurp up some water or sports drink.  No one is found without a bottle in-hand).

Next year the team talk is leaning towards Tahoe for our ride destination, but I can definitely see why several team members always ride in Death Valley, even if it means raising money to do more than 1 ride in a season.  There is something special about that location.  We take over a resort and the isolation of the place forces a level of intimacy that wouldn't be present in very many other ride destinations.  Add to that the severity of the landscape and temperature and it's nearly like being on another planet with a relatively small group of people.  Everyone HAS to look out for their fellow rider, because of the inherent risks of not doing so.

There's a certain amount of mirroring of the JDRF Ride to Cure program in the Death Valley destination, really.  Even those of us who are not directly touched by type 1 diabetes NEED to help those who are.  If a cure is found for this autoimmune disorder, it stands to reason that cures for other autoimmune disorders can't be far behind...things like asthma, allergies, lupus, celiac disease, thyroid disease, Chron's disease, Lou Gehrig's disease, arthritis, and endometriosis could potentially be eradicated.  I doubt there is anyone alive who is more than a single degree away from someone who suffers with one of these diseases. As a team we are doing so much to help improve the quality and quantity of life for so many.  I can't wait to be a part of it again in 2012!

(Death Valley) California Dreaming: part 3 - Vegas bound, baby!

Part 2

Our final breakfast in Death Valley consisted of more of the same from the previous 2 days...bacon, biscuits & gravy, coffee, fruit, and a happy, full tummy.

Derek and I had been scheduled to take one of the last shuttle busses back to Las Vegas in the morning, but our newly engaged friends Cliff & Nicole invited us to ride back with them in their rented SUV--WIN!!! We caravaned with another vehicle full of our teammates.  Rather than taking the traditional, more direct route back that passes by Zabriskie point we followed the course out to the standard turn-around on top of Jubilee Pass, then on to Pahrump via Shoshone. Derek and I had driven this route a couple of years back, so it was nice to show it off to friends.  It was also sweet to make a quick stop for photos at the very spot where the previous day's engagement had taken place.

The group of us were able to be photographed (via camera with self-timer) atop the pass in a much more civilized manner than biking 52 miles, first.  Beers at Jubilee Pass is a new experience for the team, as well.  Beats sport drink, if you ask me!

We stopped for lunch at a Sonic in Pahrump, then easily found the Golden Nugget casino hotel on Fremont Street, aka "Old Vegas," where we'd be spending 1 or 2 nights before returning to Michigan.  Staying on Fremont street was a new experience for the entire group...and I think a pretty positive one, at that.

Nighttime at "The Tank" pool at the Golden Nugget
Immediately my husband and I were impressed by the Golden Nugget.  Smaller, quieter, cheaper, and less smokey than the strip hotels, but no less nice.  Our room was enormous.  And the pool with shark tank and water slide that passes THROUGH the shark tank, sweet!  Needless to say, none of us wasted much time getting down to that pool (though we did enter the water a LOT slower than we did the water of the spring-fed pool at Furnace Creek Ranch...that pool was like bath water and required no acclimation to enter).

After a couple of hours in the pool and hot tub we cleaned-up for Dinner at Lillie's Asian Restaurant just yards from the elevators in the hotel.  We discovered this eatery shortly after checking-in and decided that a hibachi-style grill table would be ideal for our group of 16.  Turns out we were right.

We arranged ourselves around the grills in a square...just cozy enough that we could all converse and share a fun and DELICIOUS dining experience.  And the meal prices really were relatively reasonable, compared to what we would have spent on a similar meal on the Strip.  I had jumbo sea scallops and Derek had the tenderest filet EVER.  Our entrees came with rice and grilled veggies and we both had Japanese beers and a bottle of California gewurztraminer.

Onion Volcano
Once we were all stuffed to the gills we wandered our way through the casino and out to Fremont Street to order drinks and watch the overhead LED lights show.  On the street we ended up separated into smaller groups.  Some of the team were out gambling until the wee hours, while others *cough* Derek and I *cough* stumbled our way back up to our room.  That's the first and last time I order some random drink in a big, clear, plastic football.  It didn't even taste good...at least not until I'd had enough to apparently kill my taste buds.  Then it went down a little too easily and about the only thing I clearly recall was the bartender dumping at least 8oz. worth of booze into a clear plastic cup before adding it to the football glass.  Blech.  That was $13 of misery.  I haven't been that inebriated since about 2 weeks before I turned 21 (nearly 18 years ago).  I was thisclose to tossing my amazing dinner.  Next time I stick to "known" intoxicants, like beer.  Being that inebriated is only fun for about 30 minutes, then I want to be sober and in-control, again...bed-spins are icky.

Dreaded football!  I feel queasy just looking at it...
Prior to plodding back to the room we laid around the pool and watched the fish and sharks glide around in the tank.  The main pool and water slide close at 8pm, but there is an adults-only pool that remains open until later.  Next time we go we'll have to check that one out.

The next morning Derek and I hit the buffet at Golden Nugget.  It was good for the money, but after having eaten at the Bellagio buffet on my last trip to Vegas it positively paled in comparison.  I really wanted more breakfasty-foods and they were phasing them out by the time we arrived.

We spent several hours of our last day in Vegas just lounging by the pool.  It was a great low-key day highlighted by a short visit with the "little girl" I used to babysit for and her 15 month old doll of a son, Jaxon.  Lauren lives in Vegas, but isn't so little anymore, as a 25 year old married mama.  It was really a treat being able to visit with her, as it's been at least 15 years since I last saw her.  I hope we can touch-base the next time we're in town, too.

The final chapter of the saga...

(Death Valley) California Dreaming: part 2

Part 1

Ride day dawned extra early (I think it was 3:45 AM), in part because my hubby somehow managed to set our room clock ahead an hour. When the alarm buzzed I was confused, as it was set to go off 5 minutes after my cell phone alarm, which had been set for 5 minutes earlier than the room clock. At this point we weren't sure which time to trust, since both of our cell phones were showing correct time, but we didn't know if it was correct, as the room clock time had been accurate prior to this. I turned on my Garmin and confirmed that our cells were correct, but by this point we were both pretty awake and only dozed for maybe another 45 minutes before the legitimate alarms chimed.

Upon the REAL wake-up calls we wandered to the breakfast buffet (biscuits/gravy and bacon AGAIN...YES!), ate, chugged coffee, then back to our room to don our cycling kits.

Our West MI team clustered together with 300+ riders from all over the US and removed our helmets for the national anthem.

My hubby with
his macho butterfly
We rolled just as the sun arose (6:45). As soon as I took off I noticed a weird noise...for a minute I thought something was wrong with my bike, but it quickly became clear as others on the West MI team also expressed puzzlement that the noise was not coming from our bikes, but from the doo-dads on our helmets. These pinwheels eliminated the need for anyone on our team to alert other riders to our presence as we passed, as they could hear us approaching like tiny freight trains! Our two manly-men coaches also had pretty, sparkly butterflies on their helmets. Apparently these butterflies were repeatedly "rescued" by other riders on the course.

The trip out to the course turn-around was relatively easy sailing, as it's mostly downhill to Badwater--lowest point in the US--and the sun has yet to break from behind the mountains, so it was cool and shady.  The riders are also in groups pacelining.

Nicole & Cliff
At Badwater a buzz went through the West MI team.  Cliff was to propose to Nicole at the turn-around.  Suddenly it was imperative that we all get there (about 8 miles south of the Badwater break-point) in time to see the event unfold.  Cliff and Nicole had left Badwater a bit ahead of me, so I latched onto a steady couple of riders from Cincinnati and arrived in time to see the proposal unfold.  Not a dry eye was in the house desert!

The return trip to the ranch was uneventful.  I rode much of it with one of my team-mates, Diana.  By the time we arrived back at the ranch (51 miles on my Garmin, IIRC) the day was starting to really heat-up.

I went back out with the intent to go at least as far as the 10 mile break-point...perhaps as far as Badwater.   With Jubilee Pass eliminated from the route I no longer felt any great need to complete the full century option, as I managed 3 of those plus a ride across the state this year.  There wasn't any sort of "bucket list" incentive for me, plus I really didn't want to get that far out and then realize that the heat was more than I could tolerate.  Most of our team ended up riding similar mileage that day, with a few finishing the entire route (Cliff completed his first century in Death Valley...on the same day he proposed.  What a momentous day for a person!).

1/3 of the West MI team + honorary team members Danny & Jerry
That's me with the butterfly arm sleeves, which protected from the
sun and kept my arms cool, especially with a squirt of water.
At the 10 mile stop I discovered a bunch of people from our team, so we all headed back to Furnace Creek Ranch together, with an extra stop at Golden Canyon (3ish miles from the finish and the turn-around point from our tune-up ride the previous day) to let everyone catch up.

A mile out from the ranch is the "Elevation: Sea Level" sign, so we all gathered-up to be photographed in front of the sign.  Bonus was having one of our team coaches roll-up in time to join us.

It was so fabulous to roll back into Furnace Creek with my posse of fellow JDRF warriors.  My Garmin showed me at almost exactly 71 miles ridden, though it tends to cut corners (generally at the rate of about a half mile short for ever 30 miles when I compare my mileage to others') and most of the riders who logged the same route I took claimed 72 miles.  It was 72 miles of awesome!  In some ways I didn't find the heat to bother me as much as I had anticipated, either.  I handled hydration well and had a few swigs from my small bottle of pickle juice (yes, seriously!).  In some ways I think I'd rather ride in 100+ dry degrees than 90+ humid ones.  My sweat actually served its purpose and helped keep me cool.  Perhaps oven > sauna...?

Click for a larger version of the
map and elevation profile
Even without Jubilee Pass the ride was not as flat as one might assume.  My Garmin recorded some pretty substantial rollers.  Several of the climbs were a mile or two in length...not steep, but noticeable, especially in the heat and sun.

Mobile Inspiration
After finishing, our team stays at the finish (I quickly popped up to our room to change out of my swampy shorts and jersey).  We stay until the bitter end, when the last rider(s) return to the start.  This has become a West MI tradition.  While much of the field is eating dessert we are lining up for dinner with our hair still wet from quick showers.  Our team coaches are also 2 riders who do not leave the course until everyone is safely off of the course (my hubby is the big guy in the white arm sleeves).  It's just how we roll.  And it's one of the reasons that our team has developed such a positive, supportive reputation.  A rider from another team described us as "spirited."  That's about right.

Jason, Walt, me, Sarah
Michigan Great Lakes West: Home of "BikeFace"
At Dinner we learned that our team was #2 in fundraising at the Death Valley ride...out of ~20 teams, many of which had more members (we're kind of a big deal!).  As a whole this ride raised a whopping 1.2 MILLION dollars to go towards research in the fight against type 1 diabetes.  Our very own newly-engaged Cliff was also bestowed with the spirit award and a red polka-dotted jersey, as his proposal mid-ride represented what the JDRF Ride to Cure program is all about: embracing life and supporting families.

After dinner our team met back at the pool and floated around until pruney and ready for sleep. This pool time was a bit bittersweet, as it marked the end of our time together as an entire team in Death Valley for the 2011 ride. Many were making the return trip to MI in the early morning, while others were stopping off in Las Vegas for a night or two, and our team head coach and bike room guys (all from our very favorite bike shop right here in West Michigan, Velo-City Cycles) were preparing bikes for shipment back to their riders in far-flung parts of the country.

Part 3...

(Death Valley) California Dreaming: part 1

As I sit here looking out the window at the 43º rain (with 36º windchill) I'm finding it very difficult and downright surreal to believe that 2 days ago I was still in the desert (on a shuttle bus to the Vegas airport, I think). Air travel and time zones really can mess with a person.

And, like many of my JDRF Ride to Cure teammates, I'm finding myself going through desert withdrawal symptoms. We're rapidly descending into the 6 months that I loathe in Michigan -- those months of gray and cold. The stark contrast between here and Death Valley/Las Vegas is more than a little depressing. If anything could plunge one into Seasonal Affective Disorder, this return to "real life" could do it.

Are we there, yet...?
Our travel saga started a week ago, as most of the team boarded planes in Grand Rapids with a final destination of Furnace Creek Ranch in Death Valley, CA. The group my husband and I were with departed at 7:30ish in the AM, landing in Las Vegas many hours later...many, including nearly 4 hours worth of delays (I'm really not a fan of Delta Airlines. Others in our group had worse delays on the return home and ended up needing to rent a car in Chicago and drive 5 hours home -- they had something like 24 full hours of travel on the trip back to MI...ugh!) and 2+ hours of sitting on planes on the tarmac.

I have plenty of leg room...not sure
what they're complaining about...
We arrived at Furnace Creek Ranch in time to check into our room and head to dinner of burgers under the stars followed by cramming the entire team into various rental vehicles for a trek out to Zabriskie Point to gaze at stars...but the full moon had other plans, so more than stars we had an amazing view of the desert under bright moonlight, followed by some pool/team party time in the HUGE, warm, spring-fed pool at the ranch.
Michigan Great Lakes West

Our first day at the ranch started with buffet breakfast (biscuits and gravy AND bacon...oh my!), followed by a West MI (aka Michigan Great Lakes West) team photo and our "tune-up" ride of 6.5 miles.

After the ride much of the team went hiking in the desert, while the rest of us floated around in the pool for hours.  Since I wasn't sure how well I'd tolerate the heat and arid air and didn't want to risk feeling less than awesome on the real ride day, I opted for the lazy pool route.  It was awesome.  It will be many moons before we're able to again be outdoors and under the warm sun in our bathing suits here in MI.

That evening we were served a delicious pasta dinner (again, under the stars) and were notified that the next day's ride would have an abbreviated course (due to excessive heat and to keep everyone closer to the start. Last year roughly a third of the course had to be SAGged back to the start due to similar heat), eliminating Jubilee Pass (6 miles of climbing prior to the turn-around at 52 miles). Instead the course would be ~25 miles, which a person could do out-and-back twice for a full century. After dinner our team decorated our helmets (team tradition) and went around the group with introductions, since so many of us are new team riders.  It was a really beautiful and emotion-filled gathering.

Part 2...


Just have time for a quickie!

In mere minutes we'll be heading out the door on our way to the airport. Today's final destination: Death Valley, CA (Furnace Creek Ranch, to be exact)!

I'm very relieved to be finally getting underway. Earlier in the week we had some childcare-related drama that involved us making the decision to stay home. Fortunately, things were ironed-out and the saga will have a happy ending.

I'm looking forward to having lots of photos and tales of awesomeness (and doing my part to help friends in their battle with type 1 diabetes) to share in a week.


3 Bikes In < 10 Months

(road, cyclocross, mountain -- in that order)

I cannot be blamed for the last one--my hubby ordered it before I even had any interest in mountain biking (I'm still not sure that I will ever have as much interest in mountain biking as I do in road riding and duathlon).

The bike came last week and we got out for a brief ride at a tiny little wooded park near us. It was pretty nice. I got some dirt on my bike, which made it happy, I think. "It" has been named "Vera," after Jayne's (of Firefly/Serenity) favorite gun. Funny, since I'm not a fan of guns, but it just seemed sort of fitting for some unexplainable reason. And in a year or two my DS will likely inherit Vera (which is a hair small for me in a size Petite/XS. I'd like to be a bit less upright. Derek flipped the stem and stacked all of the spacers on top, but I'd still be happy a bit less vertical).  He's a big fan of Jayne and Jayne's favorite gun (*sigh* boys...), so he's OK with his future bike having a girl's name.  He may end up inheriting my CX bike in the future, as well, if I were to upgrade.  Another bike with a "female's" name ("Little Rock," from Zombieland).

The coolest thing discovered on our ride--a little lake/pond that I never knew existed.  And it's gorgeous.  I snapped one photo of it with my phone, but it's not from the most scenic vantage point.  I'll have to get out there again for a photo-op once the leaves are in full color.

Weds. we're going to meet up with several of the women who ended up with clones of my bike for some ride time at some longer/better trails an hour away.  I'm looking forward to it...assuming I don't break anything so close to our JDRF ride in Death Valley.

Saturday was our last team ride.  There were 2 loops totaling 70+ miles.  I skipped the first loop, since DS could in no way tolerate the cold (windchill was ~32) with his minimal body fat.  The 2nd loop was 41 miles and was enough.  Fighting the wind really took a lot out of me.  I felt like I'd done a metric century.

Since I haven't done a single day of mileage over 50 miles in 4 weeks (not since the Labor Day duathlon + bonus team ride) I'm planning to get in something in the 65-75 mile neighborhood, tomorrow.  Looks like it will be a stunningly perfect day for it.  Then I will be good and wiped-out for mountain biking on Weds. (probably not a good plan, but I'll have 10 days of recovery before my 105 miles in Death Valley).

Speaking of the ride, today several checks were applied to my ride account that put me over the $4000 minimum fundraising goal/requirement.  This does not include $230 worth of checks that have yet to be applied.  Here I was worried that I'd struggle to raise the money.  I underestimated the kindness and generosity of my friends and family.  I shouldn't have done that--my friends are my friends BECAUSE they are such amazing, spectacular people!

My bowling fundraiser was last weekend and it brought $220 to my ride account, as well.  Next time we'll do one in the Spring, when there are fewer things competing (like ArtPrize and Saturday football games).  I'd love to raise at least $500 with a future event.  Even more than that I'd like to see diabetes eradicated, but until that happens, we'll keep bringing in money so that the JDRF can keep up the advancements in research to that cure and the treatments that improve the lives and life expectancies of our friends.


How ya' like me now?!

I'm on the leaderboard, I'm on the leaderboard, I'm on the leaderboard... *does a little dance*
Turns out my suspicions were correct--the original 2nd place "female" finisher wasn't a female named Brian...it was a male named Brian.  Once the race photos came out I was able to get a gander at the participant in question and verify that Brian was either a guy or a kinda fugly and androgynous woman with 5 o'clock shadow.

I e-mailed the race director late last week and this AM the results had been adjusted. Hopefully the legitimate 3rd place woman in my age group and will receive her deserved reward.  I'm happy to be 4th in my AG and 5th woman, overall, too.  I've never seen my name on the leaderboard like that, before.

I also discovered that there were actually 32 women in the race, not 25, as had originally been printed somewhere.

Woot woot!

Yesterday I was not 100% recovered from the race 6 days earlier AND was feeling pretty beat-up from inadequate sleep for a couple of nights (thanks, cat puking next to my bed early Sat. AM!) and a day on my bike during a pedal-powered poker run on the White Pine Trail the day before...involving beer at each stop (5 beers + 1 cider). Sounds like the perfect set-up for my very first Kisscross (keep it simple, stupid) cyclocross race...whoohoooo!!!

It was a blast! Maybe the most fun I've ever had being miserable for 40 minutes. That may still go to the 2010 North Country Trail Relay when I FUBARd my ankle, though. That was more miserable. Cyclocross is kind of comical misery. A prime example can be seen here (photos are copyright-protected and the guy who does all the photography events is a truly awesome, class-act guy, so I won't douche-ily make a screen grab. I hope by the end of CX season that he snags a few shots of me that I'll want to purchase).

Note that I am not leaping or flying over the barriers...I trotted between each barrier, then had to pretty much stop and step over them.  That trail relay-bummed ankle still doesn't really do leaping or jumping, either.  I have my doubts that it ever will, again, which is part of the reason that I'm sporting that ankle brace.  It's mostly as a buttress against further injury, which cyclocross definitely invites.

Another funny photo...this one is my hubby, marking his territory, apparently.

As proof that I rode hard yesterday (hey, I was 2nd to last female in the C race, not last or even last, overall, though I think I did get lapped by at least a couple of riders...damn!), I have random broken blood vessels on my legs.  Not bruises--there was no impact.  I get these funny little ruptures any time I ride with any level of intensity.  It's weird.

I was proud of myself for making it through 8 miles of mostly unpaved riding without falling even once.  I even made it down a SCARY downhill 7 times (warm-up lap and 6 race laps).  I've never before done a real downhill on sand and dirt.  But I found that the more tired I got, the better I seemed to ride, almost.  At least on the scarier spots.  I lost much of my tentativeness.  Where I started doing dumb things was on the easier sections...things like taking corners with my inside leg down.  I caught my pedal in the ground at one point and it's amazing that I didn't fall, then.  I really struggled on one particular slow, sharp turn around a tree, too, since I have a very small frame (shut up, it's because I have a short inseam!), so my toes will overlap my front wheel.  This isn't an issue at all at faster speeds, but at slow speeds and tight turns when the wheel is turned more to either side...well, it is something I have to be ever conscious of.

I'm really looking forward to my next race, this coming Sunday.  I should be better rested, stronger, and more confident.  Someday maybe I can even fantasize about finishing in the first half of the C-field, too, heh.  It's definitely one of many things that gives me more incentive to want to drop these same freaking, nagging 20#s that have been dogging me for the last 6 years, or so.  I could be faster at pretty much everything I enjoy, with the same effort and training.  I'm not getting any younger...40 is breathing down my neck and I know losing the chub is only going to get harder with each passing year.  Would be nice to not have the degree of cellulite and extra chins, too. It would help if there weren't treats like Founders' Brewery (race sponsor) porter floats at the race finish, too, ahem.


We're gonna need a bigger garage!

Needs a name...perhaps "Johnny 5" (Short Circuit was a funny movie)...?
Again, our 2-wheeled stable is growing. This time we are adding a "petite" Cannondale mountain bike. Apparently Cannondale had something like 500 size XS/petite 2009 F5 Féminine bikes languishing in their warehouse. So our favorite shop *cough* drug-pushers *cough* got a bunch and are selling them for about half of original retail. Hubby insisted we get one, even though I don't really have any interest in mountain biking...for several reasons.

#1: I already struggle to fit in all of the running and biking I want to do before my body starts to fight back with exhaustion and/or injury issues.

#2: I am a friggin' klutz and bruise and bleed like no one else (I apparently am "a bleeder," according to a surgeon who nearly gave me a unit of blood during elective surgery). I have visions of crashing and bleeding-out on a trail before emergency crews are able to get to me. Seriously.

This river of blood was the result of a super-slow tip-over on my bike, recently...as I was unable to unclip (again) from those Shimano 105 SPD-SL pedals (which have since been returned to Amazon.com.  I am now pedaling on a pair of Look Keo Plus pedals, which have given me 0 issues...even several cranks tighter than the loosest tension setting).

If I can bleed like that after a simple <3mph fall, just imagine what an actual crash in the woods could render in terms of blood-loss... *shudder*

So mostly my plan is to play with this bike on roads and snow that my cyclocross bike can't handle, then hand it off to the rugrat when he's big enough to ride it, which shouldn't be much more than a year or two from now.

Speaking of cyclocross, I was able to put a few more miles on my relatively new Redline Conquest in recent weeks.  A week+ ago the relatively subtle snap/crackle/popping that had started during the One Day Ride Across MI became increasingly louder and more persistent.  Apparently the left side bottom bracket bearing was shot.  So while my zippy road bike was in the shop I did a longish ride on my 'cross bike, with road tires.  It was surprisingly agile on the road.  And FAR smoother than my previous aluminum road bike.  What a difference geometry and tube construction can make!

Last night I enjoyed my 2nd ride exploring backroads on the bike (with true cyclocross tires back on).  Hubby showed me some previously unexplored (by me) backroads.  Fun FUN!  My first ever cyclocross race is this coming Sunday...in 3 days.  Hopefully I will feel fully recovered from my 3rd and final sprint duathlon of the year, which took place on Labor Day (3 days ago).

What a fun race!  It was the inaugural Honey Creek Inn Duathlon.  And my favorite race of the year, thus far.  Even though it was my shortest duathlon, it may have been the hardest.  Fortunately it was not hot or humid, unlike my previous race...but it was chilly and WINDY...and pretty danged hilly.  The bike leg was about the same length as that of my previous duathlon, but my pace was about a half mph slower.  Given the challenges of the course I think I was actually stronger, for this race.

The run legs went better than the previous race, too.  Heat really beats me down.  Even with the hills and wind, I think my overall run pace was better on this race, as we were in the lower 50s for the duration of the event.

My results: 42/86 overall, 6/25 women, 5/12 age group (30-39...4/11 if we don't count the first place in my age group, since she was overall female winner. Half of the female field was in my AG, sheesh). I know how to cherry-pick my races! Also, I only got passed by ONE person on the entire cycling leg.

I think it's possible that I may have podiumed for my age group, but not certain.  The 2nd place winner in my AG has a masculine name...and there is a person with that same name from the same town who does running and cycling races, according to Athlinks.com, but no evidence anywhere of a female by that name anywhere.  Weird. So, assuming something got entered incorrectly and that participant is a guy AND if the 1st place female in my AG wasn't counted, since she was the overall female winner...that would put me in 3rd.  Pretty groovy!

The race didn't provide detailed leg splits, unfortunately.  They had a timing mat coming into the 1st transition and then at the finish.  Somehow they extrapolated splits from this (?).  According to that I was 51/86 on the first run, 31/86 on the bike, and 45/86 on the 2nd run.  But the paces and places are including transitions in some way.  So it's not particularly accurate.  The race directors asked for comments and suggestions on their Facebook page.  I asked that next year they have fully timed transitions/legs...I'd gladly pay $5-10 more for that.

I also asked that they institute a stricter no-iPod/headphones policy.  I had TWO issues with blissfully unaware participants during the race.  One in transition moseying-along with people running up behind him and one during the bike leg...on an open course with cars.  The rider had no clue I was attempting to pass, even though I called-out to alert them.  Headphones have no place on an open road race, particularly not one with hills and winding roads without good lines of sight.

The last few days have been all about recovery.  I have been more wiped-out and sore from this race than I was after riding across the state.  Probably didn't help that I tacked-on another 35 hilly and windy training miles with a small group of riders from the JDRF Ride to Cure team after the race, heh.


Coffee cannot lift this fog!

The word 'epic' gets thrown-around with great frequency, but I can think of no other word that accurately sums-up my 147ish mile ride across the state of MI with ~100 other cyclists.

The One Day Ride Across Michigan was resurrected as a fundraising event by several members of our JDRF Ride to Cure team after a 1 year absence. It starts in Montague and ends in Bay City.  Last year I attended the finish with my hubby (we brought our bikes and rode in about 12 miles to meet up with friends who were riding, then rode them in during those last miles when they needed the moral support).

I pretty much had decided there and then that I wanted to do it this year, though it still seemed like a really daunting undertaking. Last year's ride started in pouring rain and ended up relatively hot and humid. I don't do hot and humid well, as I struggle to ingest enough fluids and electrolytes to hold cramps at bay. What I was most nervous about was battling leg cramping issues, which could make for a VERY long and painful day.

Fortunately this was not an issue yesterday. We started off around 7:30 with relatively high humidity, but temps only in the mid-60s. Very comfortable. The temps seemed to hold steady for a few hours, so I had no issues staying on top of hydration, even though we were plugging away at a respectable pace for several hours (I think our cruising pace was in the 18-20mph range, even with rolling hills and a slight head wind. We had a great double paceline going with about a dozen strong and reasonably experienced riders).

The group separated into 2 groups a bit before this stop. I managed to comfortably stay with this front group of some particularly badass riders.

Our first major food stop was about 55 miles in, out of the back of my little hatchback. Derek volunteered to operate as a sag vehicle for our group (he was also responsible for the road markings the past 2 years), so there were chips, water, sports drink, Fig Newtons, cookies, cheese sticks, and beef sticks available for us to keep us fueled until the lunch stop about 82 miles in.

It was shortly after this stop that our group separated again. I was behind a friend struggling up a hill and lost the slipstream of the front group. I attempted for a few miles to latch back on, but it became obvious that trying to do so was an unwise means of pacing myself with nearly 2/3 of the ride still remaining. I wasn't certain how far back the trailing group was, so I happily plugged-away on my own for about 25 miles...which was just fine, since I was having some major "up front" issues by this point.

As I neared the lunch stop it began to rain a bit and I could see in my little rear-view bar-end mirror that the sky behind me was becoming VERY dark.

At the lunch stop I was SO thankful that I'd packed a 2nd pair of shorts. A couple of weeks ago I had purchased a pair of Pearl Izumi short with their "PRO" level chamois, since I really like their Elite chamois--the Pro shorts are a step-up and seemed like a good idea for a ride nearly 50 miles longer than any previous ride.

I had also recently switched to a new saddle that on paper appeared to be the perfect saddle for my anatomy...and at first I was wondering if the saddle was the issue. But I wasn't having pressure or pinching problems, I was having OMG-who-put-sandpaper-in-my-shorts problems. And I had been suspicious on previous rides that my new shorts were perhaps a little too roomy (snugger is better with cycling shorts, as any slack just gets shifted back-and-forth with each pedal stroke) and the chamois too bulky.  All the chamois lube in the world wasn't going to remedy the situation.

It was clear immediately after we returned to the road that the shorts were, indeed, the culprit. Damage had already been done, but as we rode my nether-regions actually started feeling better, and by the end of the ride I was pretty fond of my saddle (well, as fond as one can be of a bike saddle after nearly 150 miles).

Back to the lunch stop... The group behind me arrived at the lunch stop just before the skies opened. And with the rain came pretty serious winds and lightning. So our planned brief stop was extended by a good half hour while we watched the skies and attempted to view radar on our cell phones, which received very limited signal out in BFE.

No longer glaringly white...these shoes earned the dirty and stinky!
Before we rolled post-lunch I donned arm warmers, which I had packed in the car thinking I might need them for the start. I was regretting not packing my lightweight windbreaker jacket at this point, but once we got moving I was warm and I would have been soaked no matter what. The rain wasn't coming down all that hard, but the roads were covered in puddles, so we all got drenched from the spray off of the tires of riders in front of us.

Again our group split into 2 smaller groups and I rode for a few miles with the front group, but they were moving just a hair faster than I felt wise (for me) and I was getting tired of riding behind the rooster-tails of water from bikes ahead of me. So I told them to go on ahead. I was again content to ride solo. Many of my miles are done alone and I really don't mind it--especially with new scenery.

Coming into Shepherd, MI I saw DH and DS with "Dash, the wonder car," so I stopped for a minute or so for a photo op and to join up with the other half of our ride posse.

The 7 of us remained inseparable for the remaining 50 miles.  And in many ways these miles were the easiest: good company, net downhill, rain abating, and the end in sight.

Maybe 10 miles out of Shepherd we turned into a short stretch with a relatively strong headwind.  By the time we turned 90º to yield a cross-wind 3-4 of us were feeling really poorly.

I thought it was just me...I suddenly went from riding with a reasonable degree of strength to bonking.  I felt tense and weak at the same time, shaky, and thoughts of quitting were at the forefront of my brain.  We were also just beyond the 100 mile mark and into the realm of the most miles I had ever pedaled in my life in a single ride (which I wasn't even thinking about, but my body seemed more aware of this milestone than my brain was...mostly because my brain wasn't really functioning at this point).

Cindy, me, Mike, Lindsey, Bill, J2 (where's Pea?  Pea Peeing?)
Just as we turned the corner we saw a mirage...a little copper-red Mazda 3 hatchback. Only it wasn't a mirage, it was my hubby and son and an open hatch with a cooler full of food and beverages. Derek describes our behavior as a swarm of locusts. This was pretty accurate. The 7 of us descended upon the car and in just a few minutes inhaled thousands of calories worth of carbs, protein, fat, and caffeine. And the remaining 40 miles were actually pretty tolerable with fuel.

Lindsey and I had a few issues for the remainder of the ride with the sand we collected at this stop gumming up our cleats and making it difficult to clip in and out of our pedals (Lindsey made great use of that little car of ours while attempting to unclip in a parking lot a few miles after this food stop.  She has some mad skills for someone who has only been riding a mere THREE months).

The remaining miles were fairly comfortable.  Several of the roads were seemingly paved-by-angels, which was so welcome after so many hours in the saddle.

The last couple of hours were cycles of us pulling/dragging one-another along.  I was so thankful to have such amazing company so late in the ride.  I couldn't have asked for a better group of people to ride with while operating with only half a brain, heh.  My average pace for the duration of the ride was >17mph.  Cruising speeds generally in the 18-20mph range, even during some of the stretches when I was riding solo, which was pretty crazy cool.  When I first started riding I had to push it to go 13mph for a 2 hour ride.  Total ride time was about 8.5 hours.

Will ride for beer
In the final miles I became a bit tunnel-visioned and had only 1 thing in my sights--a pint can of one of my favorite local beers, Brewery Vivant's "Solitude."

I still felt surprisingly strong as I rolled into the park parking lot at Bay City.  I was so ready for my beer, a burger, and a hot shower at the campground across the street from our post-ride party picnic shelter.  I was able to remove the surface dirt from my legs in the shower, but there is still road-grime embedded in the skin of my legs -- COOL!

Many of the riders loaded onto a chartered bus for the trip back to their vehicles at the start.  My family made the mostly uneventful drive home (in the same town as the ride start, incidentally) while dodging deer and other critters through dense banks of fog.

Though I was utterly exhausted it took me a long while to settle-down enough to actually fall asleep.  I took a couple of ibuprofen before bed to combat some of the general body aches, but still woke at least once with just general discomfort (I don't have any specific area that's in pain, just couldn't get/stay comfortable enough to sleep as soundly as I needed) and a little hungry.  Today I'm feeling quite ravenous and anticipate snacking for much of the day, but tomorrow I need to really forcefully jump on that weight loss wagon.

Some of my more, um, ambitious (read: insane) friends are pedaling back to the start today, aka MARDO (Mad Ass Ride Do-Over).  Derek is currently en-route to meet them somewhere mid-ride to claim a century.  My goal for the day is to remain awake and alert without the assistance of more caffeine...but I'm feeling a fail coming on.

Can't wait to do this again, next year.  Though I may have to relent and let Derek ride.  He may have to fight me for the privilege, though.  But he admits that he really enjoyed acting as support for our peloton of riders and we REALLY appreciated him doing that.  I'm not sure that I could have finished the entire distance without that moral and caloric support.

As "epic" as this ride was, it still pales in comparison to the marathon in terms of what it took out of me during and afterwards. Perhaps this is a matter of race vs. endurance "event," though.


Why am I pedaling my bike through Death Valley?

As many of you are already aware, I am joining my husband, Derek, to pedal our bikes 105 miles through Death Valley on Oct. 15, as part of the West Michigan Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation's (JDRF) Ride To Cure Diabetes team. Derek is in his second year as a team coach for the fundraising program in our area.

I am riding in honor of a local teenager, Allison. She was diagnosed over 10 years ago at the age of 4 with Juvenile or "Type 1" diabetes. The money we raise goes towards research to find a cure for type 1 diabetes, an autoimmune disease that affects as many as 3 million Americans and sentences sufferers to a lifetime of grave health risks, blood sugar checks multiple times per day, and insulin injections. A cure for this disease would give those afflicted a greater quality of life, reduced stress, and remove the risk of early death from complications associated with diabetes.

Allison spent a lot of her younger years in and out of the hospital, dealing with severe low blood sugars that would put her into full body seizures, to extreme high blood sugars that would require hospitalization. She missed out on a lot of overnight parties with friends, sleep-overs at her grandparents’ houses, and other activities that healthy kids may take for granted.

She is starting her freshmen year in high school in the Fall and has come such a long way in living and dealing with her diabetes. It is still an every day struggle having to check her blood sugar 4-6 times a day, give insulin through her pump when blood sugars are high or any time she eats, check ketones when blood sugars are high, change her pump infusion site (similar to an IV) every 3 days, and manage her blood sugars when she is active.

Despite the every day struggles of living with diabetes, Allison is very athletic. She is in her 2nd year of Irish dance, loves cheerleading, playing tennis, and recently went to Gulf Shores in Alabama for a week with a friend over their Spring Break. She is very involved with band and colorguard and is going to band camp for a week for the first time in August.

Allison’s mother has said “We couldn't be more proud of her and have learned to live with diabetes, but the every day stuggles and worry of this disease NEVER go away. We are encouraged and hopeful that there will be a cure in her liftetime.”

I’m just over halfway to my goal of raising $4,000. Your tax deductable donation can help kids and adults like Allison to look forward to the day when they no longer have to live with the threat of complications and death hanging over their daily existence. I have an online fundraising page where donations can be easily made electronically: jdrf.org/goto/zoomy

I am also able to receive donations via a check made out to JDRF and mailed to me:
Kirsten Dykstra
7996 Bedau
Montague, MI 49437

To see our West MI team in action you can check out this short video - You might recognize the big guy at the 4:10 mark: YouTube video

Please, don't hesitate to ask me more about the JDRF organization and our ride. You can also visit the program’s official website for more information about the ride and about Type 1 diabetes: ride.jdrf.org

Allison’s family, my friends with Juvenile Diabetes, and I so greatly appreciate any help you can give.


My Ass...and other stuff.

My search for the perfect saddle continues -- unfortunately. I know exactly what I need...finding it is the challenge. If I could have my very own custom saddle designed, it would include these features:
  • 150-155mm wide in the butt-zone
  • VERY T-shaped (as opposed to pear-shaped...which is relatively more common in women's saddles)
  • firm -- minimal padding
  • flat (ie not domed from side-to-side)
  • white (so as not to get hot when under the Death Valley sun)
  • long-ish, narrow nose
  • cut-out (if the girl-bits ain't happy, ain't nobody happy!)
I'm getting close.  The Specialized Body Geometry Ruby 155 meets most of the criteria, but is a bit too pear-shaped (transition from rear to nose is too gradual and causes pressure/chafing where my upper-inner-thigh meets my butt cheek...also forces me too far forward on the nose, so I'm constantly pushing back, regardless of fore/aft position or tilt of the nose).  I can test it and return that to Specialized within 30 days, so I may end up using that for the One Day Ride Across MI. I did complete a century a week ago on that saddle and it was OK.  It didn't "disappear under me" and I was more aware of the saddle than I would have liked (especially when I'd ride in the drops, as that really had the inside of my upper thighs banging against the saddle edge) but the firmness of it didn't bother my sit bones as much as I had feared.

I also did a single ride on a Selle Italia Turbomatic Gel Flow (this is not a squishy "gel" saddle, but VERY firm, dense padding) and absolutely LOVED the footprint of that saddle, but it was too domed (it's marketed as a 153mm wide saddle, but it definitely feels MUCH narrower, because of the domed profile) and I felt like I was straddling the saddle, more than resting on it.  As a result my crotch-tal regions bore more weight than my sit-bones...after 10 miles on that I was ready to not be on it anymore. But the distinct t-shape transition was PERFECT.  I've never had a saddle that didn't feel like my inner thigh muscles and flubber weren't fighting for space with the saddle.  I didn't feel that at all with the Turbomatic...but the pressure "up-front" was a deal breaker.

I have definitely learned that the Specialized recommendation for me to be on a 143mm saddle with my 130mm sit bones is off.  It's no wonder I would end up shifting to sit a half-inch to the left-of-center (kinda like my politics, heh).  There is slight compression on the edge of my Jett 143 saddle on that side, where that sit-bone was sliding off to one side.

I have very high hopes for the next saddle in line for testing, the Selle San Marco Aspide Glamour Arrowhead (say that 5 times fast!).  The footprint is very similar to the Turbomatic, but it appears a lot flatter in photos (and I've been told by someone who owns one that it's "exceedingly flat," as well).  I also was able to find it on eBay in white, which is a bonus.  Rumor is that this saddle is VERY firm, but that shouldn't be an issue.  The Specialized Ruby is fairly firm and after a century ride on that saddle I had zero sit bone discomfort.

I'm hoping this saddle arrives in time for me to get in 1-2 short rides before Saturday.  If the overall fit is good I will use it for the ODRAM ride.  Then the worst issue I am likely to encounter is sore sit-bones...which is pretty much a given by the end of a ~150 mile ride, right?

I'm really loving my new road pedals and shoes...especially after I discovered that squirting some light lubricant (like WD-40) into the guts of the pedals made them release MUCH easier (even on the very loosest resistance setting).  Every stop before that was hairy-scary.  By the last quarter of last weekend's century I felt it was pretty much a given that I'd not be able to unclip my left foot at some point, especially as that leg/hip/ankle started tiring from the torque required to unclip.  Right around the 90 mile marker my suspicion was confirmed.  I still have a dark bruise on my left hip and a scabby knee to show for it.  First fall on my new road bike...took almost 2600 miles to take that fall.

Hopefully the pedals will loosen in time.  If not I need to make a point to spray lube into the mechanism as-needed.

The larger pedal surface has made such a marked improvement in my foot comfort on these long rides...though the shoes are a little trickier to walk in....not that I do a ton of walking in cycling shoes.

Speaking of traveling on-foot in cycling shoes, it's less than a month until the first Kisscross cyclocross race of the season...I feel sorta sick to my stomach just thinking about it.  I did my first "crit" closed-track race a few days ago.  It went OK.  There were only 4 of us on the track...one of whom is an opportunistic B-race cherry-picker who has no place in the C field (last week she hung on my hubby's wheel, then out-sprinted him to the finish...this past week she did the same to me for over a lap, then finished way ahead of me and 1 other rider.  A young guy hung on her wheel to the finish...not how criteriums are supposed to go down, at all).  I took 3rd, for $5.  Woot!  It gave me a bit of a taste of the effort level of cyclocross...though one of those races will take about 30 minutes and the Weds. race took about half that long for 3 laps.  'Cross is gonna hurt.  A lot.  But it will be fun.  And there will be beer.  And prizes are awarded by raffle/lottery, not placement.  So I can win cool swag...and beer.


Changes "Afoot"

So, when I started this whole cycling thing I decided to go with "mountain biking" shoes and small 2-bolt SPD pedals. This set-up allows me a shoe that I can walk in with some traction and reduced risk of damaging the cleat, since the cleats are recessed into the shoe tread and are metal. Dedicated road cleats are not recessed and are plastic, so they suffer significant wear-and-tear when a person walks around in the shoes. The shoes also tend to be stiffer, which makes walking all the more difficult.

BUT road shoes and pedals can be a good deal more comfortable for longer, more intense rides, since the stiffer soles + significantly larger pedal platform help to spread pressure across a wider area and reduce strain to foot muscles.

My first pair of shoes were Sidi Dominators, a mtn. shoe. A very nice shoe, but WAY too narrow. I started having all sorts of foot/toe cramping and numbness issues, particularly with my larger right foot. After switching to a wider men's Louis Garneau shoe many of my issues disappeared, though I have still been having some soreness issues and "hot spots" through the outer sides of my foot...I suspect it's irritated peroneal tendons and/or foot muscles feeling the strain of hours of pedaling with shoes that are flexing around these relatively small pedals.

Since I have 2 bikes I started considering the switch to road-specific pedals and shoes for my road bike. This will allow me to trash my mtn. shoes with mud and slop while riding my cyclocross bike and not need to significantly clean them prior to riding indoors on the trainer during the cold months.

This should also help make my upcoming 150ish mile ride across the state a little less uncomfortable in the later miles, as I have been finding my feet starting to protest around the 50 mile mark on longer rides...100 miles of foot pain doesn't sound particularly appealing.

Louis Garneau CFS-300
The choice of shoe was easy. I really like the fit of my off-road shoes and Louis Garneau makes a road shoe with essentially the same upper.  Bonus is the white color and toe vents--black shoes during our recent heat wave got noticeably HOT inside (which served to increase my foot discomforts, as my feet would swell a bit more than usual).

Pedals made for a tougher decision.  There are so many more choices of road pedals.  Speedplay pedals have pretty much unlimited float and come in nifty colors, but our friend who owns our favorite local bike shop always had issues with even the smallest bit of dirt or sand lodging in the cleats (which are the mechanical part of the cleat/pedal interface on Speedplays).  I read at least one other similar criticism.  Given that we essentially live on a giant sand dune and our roads frequently have a dusting of sand at intersections I had to rule out Speedplay pedals.  Plus I don't actually NEED more than a few degrees of float.

I also considered Time pedals, but they aren't as common, so finding replacement cleats or parts in a pinch could be an issue.

Shimano 105 SPD-SL
DH has LOOK Keo pedals and likes them, but is already eyeballing Shimano pedals for his next pedal (to try something similar, but different).  So I decided to play guinea pig and go for Shimano 105 pedals, myself.  I found them on Amazon for <$64, so that bargain price made it an easy decision.

I also am trying a new saddle in preparation for my "epic" ride.  I really *like* my Specialized Jett 143, but I don't LOVE it.  While I need some sort of relief channel/cut-out/dip, I've long suspected that the very abrupt sides of the cut-out on my Jett are causing as many issues as the actual cut-out is solving.  Namely in the form of pinching bits that don't really want to be pinched.

I otherwise like the shape, size, and level of cushion of my Jett.  It's not soft, by any means, but it's not as rock-hard and slab-like as Specialized's Ruby saddle (I borrowed one last Summer and my sit bones HATED me...to the point where I really didn't want to ride it enough to see if my sits might acclimate).

Fizik Arione Donna
Late last year Fizik came out with a women's version of their popular men's Arione saddle with a relief channel (I believe they already had a women's version without said channel).  I had been wanting to try the Arione Donna, but couldn't justify the $160 price tag to test something that may not work.  Recently I found it from a British retailer for <$120, including free shipping.  OK, worth a try--I should be able to sell it for $100 if it doesn't work for me.

I have a test saddle of a different Fizik women's model (Vesta) with the relief channel, but that saddle is much softer and domed...and on my relatively more upright cyclocross bike, so I really couldn't get a good feel for it on the one short ride I've done on that bike (yeah, sad that I've had that bike for over a month and don't get out on it more, but it's hard to justify when it's been hot and dry and not conducive to "'cross" riding.  Once we get cooler and muddier that ride will be seeing more action, for certain).  If I fall in love with the Fizik saddle, then my Specialized saddle will likely go on the 'cross bike.

I <3 brains!
In fun stuff...the women from my online running log hang-out recently did our "Christmas in July" Secret Santa exchange.  My friend, Lisa, in Canada drew my name and sent me the best box of goodies...Smarties candy, a wooly black and purple scarf, and this awesome zombie heart pendant.

Homeland "Security" had a field day with the package, though...they even went so far as to slit open the enclosed card from my friend.  Sheesh.  I really wish DHS and TSA would go off in the corner and grope one another.  I've really had my fill of the fear-mongering and abuse of innocent citizens.  As the recent terrorist attack in Norway has shown, we frequently need to fear our own FAR more than we should fear those outside our borders.  Fortunately my "imported" new saddle was in no way manhandled.